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Skilling up could increase your options

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Data center professionals have no problems finding work. But having the right qualifications could open the door to better opportunities

You don’t need a crystal ball to predict good times ahead for IT professionals with data center experience.

“The data center market saw tremendous growth in 2015, with independent providers in the United States alone earning revenues of $115.3 billion and experiencing 6.1 percent growth,” said a spokesperson for specialist real estate firm JLL. “We see demand only increasing.”

Half a million jobs

jobsearch tall

Source: DCD

To cover that kind of growth, DCD’s forecasters are predicting over half a million data-centric IT jobs will be in play by 2020. Right now, in Minnesota alone, over 3,000 data center positions are currently being advertised by one online job placement site.

There may be a fly in the ointment, though. Not only are there not enough experienced IT professionals; it appears veteran data center workers may soon find their field of expertise is no longer applicable.

“By 2020, the data center industry won’t be viewed exclusively as facilities or IT, as it has over the past two decades,” writes Nick Parfitt in DCD Intelligence’s report Developing Solutions to the Data Center Skills Shortage. “That’s because the separation between these silos is disappearing as virtualization, cloud, and software-defined utilities change the way that IT is housed, managed, and consumed. The process whereby the data center has drawn in groups of specialists for each area of technology or equipment may be reversed, and the data center will be viewed as a series of work processes within a wider IT framework.”

What kind of skills will be required? “Specialists in cloud, automation, DevOps (Development and Operations), and virtualization have the best opportunities for landing these new jobs,” suggests Mark Feffer, writing for Dice.com. “Those specialists should have the ability to look at a data center in a holistic manner, rather than focusing on individual components such as servers or networks.”

Parfitt agrees with Feffer, explaining, “New groups of IT specialists will emerge to oversee the processes of the data center in physical or abstract form. These groups have started to appear in programming and portals.”

Parfitt continues, “The escalating complexity of managing, utilizing, and planning for abstracted IT capacity and processes will increase the requirement for in-house data scientists capable of analyzing the considerable data required to ensure the effective use of abstracted and physical capacity in the context of corporate objectives.”

Getting Bimodal 

As a result of the shift in focus, Feffer suggests that all data centers workers become more versatile, improve their coding skills, and increase their knowledge of Bimodal IT, which Gartner defines as the practice of managing two separate, coherent models of IT delivery:

  • Model 1 is traditional and sequential, emphasizing safety and accuracy.
  • Model 2 is exploratory and nonlinear, emphasizing agility and speed.

Multi-skilling is what Parfitt calls it. “Multi-skilling can be defined as staff members undertaking tasks additional to their original skill sets or their stated jobs,” he explains. This can mean adding job roles.

How can you tell what skills you have, and which you need? DCD’s training arm, DCPro, has a skills quiz designed to benchmark your existing abilities and advise on how to stay current.#

New groups of IT specialists will emerge to oversee the processes of the data center in physical or abstract form.

The next question becomes how do experienced workers and those wanting to break into a complex, high-paying industry go about proving they have multi-skilling capabilities?

Certifications and accreditation may be useful to both employers and those seeking employment in the data center industry, giving employers a sense of an individual’s capabilities, and helping potential employees distinguish themselves.

Ed Tittel, a 32-year veteran, checks his crystal ball every year to predict what certifications will be in demand, this year tipping qualifications from EMC, Cisco, VMware, Schneider and cabling group BICSI (see Fact File).

IT professionals may have the advantage, but certifications can only help, says Tittel: “it can be a real feather in your cap, and open the door to new and better work opportunities.”

Some certifications that count:

EMC – Data Center Architect (EMCDCA)

Validates design skills related to virtualized infrastructures and cloud environments. The training is vendor-neutral, and consists of two tracks: storage networking design, and enterprise backup recovery design.

Cisco Certified Network Professional – Data Center 

Geared toward technology architects and engineers, the CCNP Data Center identifies individuals who can implement Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) blade and rack-mount servers, and install, configure, and manage Cisco Nexus switches.

VMware Certified Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization

Employers appreciate this certification, people new to VMware need to complete prerequisite training, and then sit for two exams. A successful candidate will understand how to administer and troubleshoot vSphere V6.

Schneider Electric Data Center Certified Associate

A good start for members of a data center IT team who design, build, and manage the facility.

BICSI Data Center Design Consultant

The DCDC credential recognizes individuals who have demonstrated both the knowledge and ability in the planning, implementing, and making critical decisions regarding data centers.

This article appeared in the April issue of Datacenter Dynamics magazine

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